Micro mobility or micromobility describes the use of electrically motorised and non-motorised micro and light vehicles, also known as light electric vehicles (LEVs), to get around. In addition to bicycles and e-bikes, this also includes e-scooters, kick scooters, e-scooters and e-mopeds, Segways, light electric vehicles, hoverboards, monowheels, e-skateboards and classic skateboards. All of these means of transport are characterised by the fact that they are light, compact and primarily designed for individual mobility.
Thanks to their small size and mostly electric drive, these micro-vehicles offer significant advantages over cars, especially in the city. Nevertheless, micromobility is not necessarily intended to completely replace existing main modes of transport such as the car or public transport. Rather, it can facilitate individual mobility and make it emission-free. The greatest potential of micromobility lies in its use in the so-called first or last mile in combination with public transport, for example to link the surrounding areas, the outskirts and the city centre. You can take your own e-scooter on public transport to cover the last few metres in the city centre or use the sharing services offered by e-scooter providers in the city centre.
E-scooters, or electric scooters: The original pedal scooter has evolved into an e-scooter in recent years thanks to a battery and electric motor. This means that e-scooter riders no longer have to pedal, but simply stand on the footboard of the vehicle while travelling. The speed of e-scooters is limited to 20 km/h in Germany.
E-mopeds or e-vespas: E-scooters, or often e-mopeds, are electrically powered scooters on which up to two people can sit and ride. Instead of the conventional combustion engine, however, they have an electric drive. Electric scooters are often referred to as e-scooters, which can easily lead to confusion with electric pedal scooters.
There are now also electric models of the popular Italian Vespa or the Schwalbe. Asian scooter manufacturers, such as NIU or Gogoro, also dominate the market. If you live in the big cities of Berlin or Hamburg, you don't necessarily have to buy an e-scooter. As with e-scooters, sharing offers for e-scooters have become established here.
Pedelec: Electric bikes are often also referred to as pedelecs. Many suppliers of electric bicycles also use the English term e-bike. An electric motor with a battery built into the bike supports the rider while pedalling.
E-cargo bikes: Cargo bikes are on the rise, especially in cities, as an environmentally friendly and space-saving alternative to owning a car. E-cargo bikes can carry a payload of up to 200 kg. It is true that e-cargo bikes or e-cargobikes have a fairly high purchase price, which initially puts some potential buyers off. Compared to a car, however, the costs are rather low. In addition, cargo bikes are now subsidised by many cities and local authorities. From a sustainability perspective, they are a modern alternative to cars - especially for families or businesses.
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Micromobility in road traffic
E-bikes and pedelecs are already on the roads, cycle paths and in parks. Small electric vehicles such as monowheels or hoverboards are allowed to use cycle paths and paths in parks, but these vehicles are not permitted on the road. This is because small electric vehicles that travel faster than six kilometres per hour require insurance and registration for road traffic in Germany. E-scooters have also been allowed on German roads since 2019.
There are requirements that must be met in order to be authorised for use on public roads. These guidelines, among others, apply to e-scooters
Advantages of micromobility in rural areas: Micromobility helps to calm road traffic and reduce congestion. E-scooters and e-bikes reduce car journeys, especially in the first or last mile. Light vehicles conserve resources and are a sustainable means of transport compared to conventional cars. This means that journeys to work can be made with fewer emissions. The combination of e-bike or e-scooter and public transport significantly reduces the carbon footprint of commuting. Last but not least, this promotes the mobility transition: Those who opt for micromobility today are shaping the transport landscape of tomorrow. The greater the demand for alternative mobility options, the more these alternatives will be developed.
Mobility options such as electric scooters, bicycles and scooters have increased significantly in cities in recent years. E-scooters and e-bikes are considered an extremely affordable and intuitive form of transport and have proven to be the fastest means of transport in densely populated metropolises.
Sharing services in the field of micromobility complement existing, traditional means of public transport in cities and ensure that many public transport users have access to mobility over the last few metres. Mobility hubs are being created in many major cities such as Berlin and Hamburg.
The popularity of sharing services is also reflected in the figures: According to Statista, turnover in the e-scooter sharing sector alone will amount to around 1,103 million euros in 2021. A market volume of €2,112 million is forecast for 2025, which corresponds to annual sales growth of 17.64 per cent.
The advantages of micromobility in the city:
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In the larger metropolises with more than 200,000 inhabitants, there are several sharing services for micromobility and a large number of providers who offer these services in free-float or stationary sharing.
The first sharing provider for e-scooters was launched in Santa Monica/USA in autumn 2017. Subsequently, the first e-scooter sharing services were also established in European cities. In Germany, they were introduced when the ordinance on the participation of small electric vehicles (with steering and handrails) in road traffic came into force in June 2019. The first providers of these services were Lime (Neutron), Tier and Voi. Since then, e-scooters have been supplementing the mobility services available in major German cities.
The US-based Lime holding company Neutron is now the market leader, followed by Didi Chuxing and the Chinese platform Meituan. Californian provider Bird also plays an important role and is represented in 300 cities, primarily in the USA, Mexico and Europe. In Germany, the start-up Tier Mobility is the market leader and now serves 13 countries and over 100 cities. Tier Mobility now also includes the largest bike sharing service, Nextbike, which was founded in 2004.
Bike sharing refers to a form of bicycle hire in which bicycles can usually be made available or parked in public spaces or at public stations. Such bike hire systems are mainly found in densely populated cities. They offer a flexible, fast and environmentally friendly option for travelling shorter distances. Public bike hire systems are not only provided by private providers, but can also be offered by companies, local authorities and municipal associations. Nextbike is the leading provider of bike sharing in Germany. Other bike sharing providers include Call a Bike, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, and the e-scooter providers Tier Mobility and Lime, which also offer e-bike sharing.
If you want to get from A to B quickly in the city or to the train station just a few kilometres away in the countryside, an e-bike is usually faster, cheaper and less congested than a car. It also protects the climate. This is one of the reasons why e-bikes and other light electric vehicles (such as e-scooters) are becoming increasingly popular.
This is also confirmed by a Mobility Study 2023 on micromobility, which was conducted by the German eMobility Association (BEM), the market research company UScale and the information portal for sustainable mobility voylt. The aim of the study was to find out how owners, non-owners and interested parties of light electric vehicles (LEVs), including e-bikes, feel about micromobility. The result: the use of these small vehicles is not just a trend for people in big cities, but e-bikes, e-scooters and other LEVs are also used in rural areas - by all age groups. Older people in particular see e-bikes as an opportunity to remain mobile and get around despite health restrictions and thanks to the assisting electric motor.
According to the German Bicycle Industry Association (ZIV), people in Germany spent an average of €2,800 on an e-bike in 2022. Job bike offers enable a large number of people to purchase an e-bike at favourable conditions. Nevertheless, the mobility study also shows that people with higher incomes tend to buy and use e-bikes.
Those who own an e-bike or another light electric vehicle use their car less (53 per cent). Six per cent have even got rid of their own car completely.
Sharing offers, such as a bike hire system, can help to convince interested parties to buy an e-bike. One fifth of owners had their first experience with LEVs and e-bikes through sharing before making a purchase. This encouraged half of them to make a purchase. In addition to the price, the decisive factors for a purchase were the range and technical features. Of the respondents who do not yet own an LEV or e-bike, a third are still thinking about buying one.
A total of 1,110 people in Germany were interviewed for the survey in April 2023. A further 800 people who already own a light electric vehicle or are interested in buying one were interviewed to analyse the purchase process and usage in greater depth.
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